Friday, November 25, 2016

There Are At Least Four Timelines on Westworld

HBO’s Westworld has been chock-full of mysteries, but with two episodes to go, one thing is becoming quite clear: Westworld is taking place over multiple timelines, and after last week’s episode, there are at least four of them.

The William & Logan Timeline 

I’ve written before about the two-timeline theory, which posits that the scenes with William and Logan are taking place years before the present timeline. Proof abounds, including the old logo William sees when he arrives at Westworld, the Union army narrative that appears to be gone by the present, and the appearance of Laurence as El Lazo with William and Logan in Pariah moments after the Man in Black slit Lawrence’s throat. Last episode, however, confirmed the two timeline theory beyond any doubt with the reappearance of Talulah Riley.

Riley played the beautiful host who greeted William at the beginning of episode two. We haven’t seen her since (except for the promo video Maeve sees during her tour with Felix) until she suddenly reappears in the scene involving Teddy and the Man in Black on the road to find Wyatt. In fact, when the Man in Black sees her, he says: “It’s you. I figured they’d retired you. I guess Ford never likes to waste a pretty face.”

The only way to interpret this line is that Riley’s character greeted guests in the past, and has been gone so long the Man in Black thought she had been retired. In other words, these events have to take place in different timelines. Riley’s reappearance also lends more evidence to the longstanding fan theory that either William or Logan is the Man in Black. Both would have known Riley’s character from their early days in Westworld, and I cannot believe it’s a coincidence that the Man in Black recognizes her in the present. 

Delores & The Distant Past

Delores’ flashbacks in the William & Logan timeline reveal a much earlier timeline she lived through in the village with the black-steepled church. During the flashback, it looks like the techs are training the hosts for their very first narrative by teaching them how to dance. Maeve was there, as was Lawrence’s daughter, who remembered Delores from the earlier timeline. 

From the flashbacks, we also know that something terrible happened there. In fact, something so terrible that by William’s timeline the village has been covered over except for the black steeple peeking out of the dirt. Could her flashbacks be showing us the critical failure at the park 30 years ago that was mentioned in episode one? 

For weeks now, fans have speculated there are three timelines on Westworld, suspecting that Bernard’s dialogues with Delores in the early episodes were actually scenes of Arnold and Delores before the William & Logan timeline. This theory is proving truer with each episode. In fact, it now appears that Bernard, who we know is a host, was either created in Arnold’s image (if Arnold was human) or is literally Arnold 2.0, as Ford’s dialogue last episode seemed to suggest. 

In the beginning of episode 8, after Ford tells Bernard to bring himself back online, he reveals that Bernard is the “author” of so many of the emotions he’s feeling after realizing he killed Theresa. “When we started,” Ford says, “the hosts’ emotions were primary colors. Love, hate. But I wanted all the shades in between. The human engineers were not up to the task, so I built you, and together you and I captured that elusive thing – heart.”

Ford is clearly talking about Westworld’s early days and admits he created a host to help him build other hosts, ones with heart. We also know Ford’s original partner was Arnold, who was keenly interested in making the hosts as real as possible. He even wanted them to think for themselves. And now, when Ford is talking about the early days, he refers to himself and Bernard collectively as “we.” The most compelling reason for this is that Bernard is Arnold 2.0. 

I’m not saying the two are identical, for at times Ford is clearly speaking of them separately. For example, when Bernard becomes so angry it seems he is going to hurt Ford, Ford says: “You’re not the first man to threaten me. Arnold came to feel the way you do. He couldn’t stop me either.” But the pieces of this theory fit together like a good puzzle. Ford built Arnold, who was so interested in the hosts thinking for themselves that he encouraged Delores (one of the first hosts) to question her own reality. The result of this appears to be the incident from Delores’ flashbacks in the place with the black-steepled church. Around this same time, I believe, Arnold met his end, only to be rebuilt as Bernard. 

The Present – Where Everything’s Coming Full Circle

It looks like the distant past is about to repeat itself in the present timeline, which I believe includes the scenes with Bernard, Ford, Theresa, and Elsie (poor Elsie!), along with the scenes involving Charlotte and Sizemore, and those with Teddy and the Man in Black. In the present, however, it looks like Maeve may be taking on the role Delores played long ago. Speaking of Delores, one thing I remain curious about is why we’ve rarely seen Delores in the present timeline since episode 3? It’s making me question whether she even exists in the present, even though episodes 1 and 2 – especially the scene with Maeve and Delores in the street, where she whispers “these violent delights have violent ends” – strongly suggest she does.

Meave’s Dreams & the Fourth Timeline

Which brings us to the fourth timeline. This one takes place between the present and the William & Logan timeline. Before last episode, this timeline was only hinted to in Maeve’s dreams. But now we know that sometime before the present, the Man in Black decided to do something truly evil, just to see how it felt. So he killed Maeve and her daughter while the two were settlers in a prior narrative. Afterwards, when Maeve is brought back to the lab, she freaks out big time. We know from the preview to Sunday’s episode, Maeve tells Bernard that they have been through this before, and she’s clearly referring to this fourth timeline. 

But that’s just what we know for now. There could be a fifth timeline or even a sixth hidden in the show. I suspect all will be revealed in the finale, but it does beg the question of whether season two will follow the same, complex narrative structure that season one did. With these writers, however, I’m not worried. I think they’ve created a masterpiece, and I’m happy to be along for the ride.

* Images courtesy of HBO.

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